On Thursday morning, June 18, I saw on the calendar that the Syriac Orthodox Church remembered the feast day of St. Moses the Abyssinian. This caught my eye especially because of the week the Axia Women Board was praying the Canon of Reconciliation every night. When I looked further, I realized that this was another name for St. Moses the Ethiopian or St. Moses the Black. I later discovered that “Abyssinian” is a former name of Ethiopia. However, this was not the first time I have heard of his name. I recall hearing his name mentioned when I was at seminary. In my first year, the students of St.
I first encountered “antidoron”—the bread distributed after Holy Communion— as a 17-year-old. I was spending the summer with the family of a priest in Patras, Greece, as an exchange student. He would bring home these big round loaves, stamped with an abstract design from his work at a local cathedral and they would slice it up and eat it with meals. It was blonde, rather coarse and dry, so I never asked for much. To me, bread was for toast or sandwiches; rice is what you ate with meals. But but this six-person family, living on a priest’s small stipend, were glad to have it and went through several loaves a week.
This piece models the kind of self-examination that those of us who are not people of color need to undertake in this moment in the United States. But of course such metanoia (repentance) should only be the starting point that leads us to penitent action. As St. Paul himself says, "Faith without works is dead" (James 2: 17). In this case, the change in thoughts needs to be backed up with active lifestyle change and action involving learning from and about people of color's achievements, actions, struggles, and oppression. We must learn to hear their voices while actively listening and acknowledging what they say regardless of how it may sit with our preconceived notions.
A few weeks ago we published a post by Amber Schley Iragui about an iconographer, Heather MacKean, who turned out to be her church sponsor. That made us start asking around about other women and their godmothers. Here's what a Woman of the Week from earlier this year, Nadia Kizenko, had to say about hers. In the photo below, you see Nadia (left), with Irina (center), and her own mother.
Godparent choices can be prophetic. My godmother, Irina Itina, was my parents’ neighbor in the Bronx, one of the few godparents they picked who was not related to either of them. That act introduced me to the notion that one could choose company not out of blood, but out of affinity.
We've been live-streaming the Canon for Racial Reconciliation every evening this week. But what is a canon, anyway? If you are Orthodox, it is a term you hear not only for the rules for the way we run our churches as organizations, but also as a kind of prayer service. To learn more, we turned to an expert, Nicholas Reeves, who not only grew up in a priest's family that sang canons as part of their family spiritual practices, but has also lectured about Arvo Part's Kanon Pokojanen to non-Orthodox audiences.
Every night this week, Axia Women will be praying the Canon for Racial Reconciliation. On Monday, the prayer will be lead by the person who wrote it thirteen years ago, our own Dr. Carla Thomas. We will be live-streaming on Facebook at facebook.com/axiawomen.
If you want to follow along, you can find the text on the Fellowship of St. Moses the Black website.
This week, the Greek Archdiocese of America produced the miniseries “A Conversation on Racial Reconciliation,” which is part of their larger online resource center covering racism and the response of the Church. Consisting of six episodes, the miniseries includes interviews with priests, deacons, laity, and academics. Fr. John Chryssavgis asked me, along with Professor Aristotle Papanikolaou and Dr.